A 19th century French aristocrat, notorious for his scathing memoirs about life in Russia, travels through the Russian State Hermitage Museum and encounters historical figures from the last 200+ years.
An unseen man regains consciousness, not knowing who or where he is. No one seems to be able to see him, except the mysterious man dressed in black. He eventually learns through their discussions that this man is a 19th century French aristocrat, who he coins the "European". This turn of events is unusual as the unseen man has a knowledge of the present day. The two quickly learn that they are in the Winter Palace of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the European who has a comprehensive knowledge of Russian history to his time. As the two travel through the palace and its grounds, they interact with people from various eras of Russian history, either through events that have happened at the palace or through the viewing of artifacts housed in the museum. Ultimately, the unseen man's desired journey is to move forward, with or without his European companion.Written by
Among the many problems that plagued the one-day-only production, there was a considerable language barrier. Director Aleksandr Sokurov speaks only Russian, and cinematographer Tilman Büttner speaks only German, so a translator followed the duo around (along with Büttner's seven-man crew) to keep the communication open. See more »
Many of the historical costumes are clearly modern. For example, in one scene, Catherine the Great is wearing a gown that zips up the back. See more »
I found "Russian Ark" a fascinating work of a very ambitious director. For me, it was a highly enjoyable guided tour through the rooms, galleries, and halls of one of the greatest museums in the world. I have not been to Hermitage (Winter Palace) for over fourteen years, and to see the familiar rooms, stairs, paintings, and sculptures was like traveling back in time. The film is also the journey over three hundred years of the Russian history and the attempt to understand the country's place and meaning in European culture. Each of the palace's rooms is filled with memories, shadows, whispers, smiles, and tears of the people whose lives have made the history of the country. The fact that it is all presented in a single, the longest uninterrupted shot ever makes it even more incredible. I also saw the documentary about making "Russian Ark". It is called "On One Breath" - that's how the director, Alexander Sokurov wanted his audience to feel about the film that was shot in a single glorious take during several hours on one winter night. The preparation for this unforgettable night took almost four years.
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